Archive for the 'costumes' Category

Costume Parade [Part Three]

Frodo at the Futureshop DVD Release Party

2003: Frodo

Frodo from head to tow, brandishing sting in his right hand, clutching the ring with his left
“The Fellowship of the Ring” inspired my son’s choice to become Frodo, which was possibly the most elaborate of all the costumes I’ve made. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think there were even mass produced Frodo costumes available at that time. I bought supplies at Malabars, which is where I found the elven cloak clasp and the batter operated “Sting” which glows blue when orcs are near…

But unquestionably the greatest resource that gave me guidance was an amazing Alley Cat Scratch website with an enormous amount of detail and advice about ever aspect of the Lord of the Rings costumes. From costume sketches, patterns, photos of the original costumes, discussions of the fabric and construction used by the production company…. this was an invaluable resource for making Frodo.

2004: Neo

3 views; hanging on the door
We were quite taken with the Matrix series, so naturally my son wanted to be Neo. The first step was to get a “Neo” haircut. Although Neo was armed and dangerous by the end of the Matrix, we agreed that any armaments would be inappropriate for inclusion in a school setting after the events of Columbine. And isn’t the underlying theme of the Matrix trilogy that guns are merely props; the real power is from within?
I had to learn to sew button holes for the coat (did I ever!). The coat was made with my favorite Arctic Fleece, but since it was used almost like a cape within the film’s choreography, I lined the skirt of the coat with a more rigid slippery fabric that added weight and allowed my son to do those classic Neo spin-arounds

2005: Zorro

my zorro poses at the movie theatre
I grew up watching a black & white Zorro on television. But as much as I loved Guy Williams, the Antonio Banderas’ Zorro was the one to emulate. This costume did double duty, as Hallowe’en coincided with the theatrical release of “The Legend of Zorro” which we thoroughly enjoyed.

2006: Captain Jack Sparrow

IMG_5194

Johnny Depp deserved his Oscar for Captain Jack in the first (and only good) Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The richness of the character inspired my son to revisit the world of pirates.

This costume was another major undertaking, not least because I was emboldened to do far more original sewing than alteration work. It was gratifying that after Hallowe’en my son wore the pirate shirt to school more than once as part of his wardrobe.  This costume also required even more in the way of accoutrements than our first pirate outing had.

2007: Harpo Marx

collage: Harpo face, Harpo dancing with dog, detail suspenders amd coat  pocket

We began with a beige trench coat, but extra pockets had to be added to the interior so my young Harpo could secrete various bits of paraphernalia, magic tricks, a giggle stick and most important, Harpo’s signature horn. Even in black and white, it was clear that Harpo’s wardrobe was always bright, so we searched for the loudest shirt, and brightest suspenders we could find. We topped it off with a nice blond wig and top hat from a local costume shop.

In keeping with the characterization, my son wore the costume to high school, where he didn’t speak a word all day, only punctuating his non-verbal communications with honks on the horn. He was a little disappointed that only a few of the teachers even knew who the Marx Brothers were.


This article completes my overview of the costumes I’ve made for my son.  I expect to devote entire articles to the three most elaborate costumes, for Frodo, Zorro and Captain Jack. I am pleased to see that my son has taken to making his own costumes these days.

Costume Parade [Part Two]

left photo: the finished cat, right photo I'm face painting the cat

1998: Year of the Cat

Growing up with cat siblings, it was only natural that my son would want to be a cat one year. The cat costume made of thick fake fur was a particularly good choice for 1999’s bitterly cold Hallowe’en.

I left the face open and attached black raffia whiskers to the sides of the face. Large black craft foam claws were sewn to the costume’s front paws.

Two photos, one a head and shoulders shot and the other a full body shot of the pirate costume.ostume

1999: Dread Pirate

My son decided he wanted to be a pirate in the first grade.  For the hat, I transformed my wide-brimmed dressy felt hat into a traditional pirate hat, trimming the edges with gold ribbon to make the outline stand out. I used a sheet of white craft foam to cut out a skull and cross-bones.  The piratical striped shirt and bandana was part of his ordinary wardrobe already.

The cape is trimmed with the same gold ribbon, and held together with a chain clasp.  I also made a shoulder “swag bag” to hold all the accoutrements,  The two main weapons were a plastic cutlass, and a reproduction antique pistol (a non-functioning lighter).

We had a lot of fun making all the pirate accoutrements for this one. The spyglass was made from two different sized thick cardboard towel rolls that could nest together with a clear Pringles lid attached as the “lens”  Then I made a piratical treasure map, which was painted it with lemon juice and baked in the oven so it would acquire the patina of antiquity.  There was also a pirate flag made with leftover black fabric hung on a bit of bamboo.  I made white foam skulls in appropriate sides to adorn the back of the cape, the flag, and the spyglass.

Harry flies his Nimbus 2000 through the graveyard on Hallowe'en

2000: Harry Potter

My son wanted to be Harry Potter before the first movie was made.  So research for this costume required my return to the source material of the books.

We needed a wand.  Since a visit to  Ollivanders Wand Shop was out of the question, a nice hollow piece of Bamboo — painted gold — was just the ticket.  Next insert a nice Phoenix feather (either a found bird feather, or one purchased from a craft supplier) and tamped down with an appropriately sized glowstick. The glowsticks I used were intended as earings, so there were two to a package, found at the Dollar Store. One of these glowsticks will last out the night, but it is always handy to have backups, particularly as such inexpensive glowsticks have a higher incidence of not activating).

The key element of clothing for Hogwarts students was a nice back wizarding robe to be worn over ordinary street clothes.  To make the costume more Harry Potter specific, I decided to make a Hogwarts crest for young Harry’s book bag.   There was a beautiful black and white line art rendering of the Hogwarts crest in the books. Since this drawing was uncredited, I assumed it to be the work of author J.K.Rowling (which seems now to be the consensus on the Internet). The books told me which colours were required for each of the Hogwarts houses.

I transformed a small straw broom into a Nimbus 2000 by removing the stitching to make it flat, then binding the straw in a circle. I stained the handle and painted “Nimbus 2000” on the shaft, then varnished it.

He loved the costume, but his biggest disappointment when Trick or Treating was that most people had no idea who Harry Potter was.

This costume was reused again later, when he attended a Harry Potter book launch with the addition of a Griffindor crest to the wizarding robe, which was somewhat shorter now, as he’d grown in the intervening years.

Left: sitting outside Wordsworth, reading the new book; right top, with Hagrid, bottom, full costume

left: aiming the long bow toward the sky, right: wielding the sword

2001: Robin Hood

For my own amusement, my son’s Robin Hood costume *had* to be based on the Errol Flynn costume from the Warner Brother’s classic. My research for this one involved searching through the film and making sketches of all the necessary bits.

I chose to diverge from the movie, following convention (and the movie poster) in making my son’s hat green, rather than brown. We used a fairly spectacular found feather for the cap. The crenelated tunic was a little bit finicky but not so difficult to sew. I am not the world’s best seamstress, and I try to make costumes durable, I use fabric that doesn’t fray and unravel easily, and it is always a bonus if the stitching can disappear into it.

I put gromets into the v neck of the collar to thread leather lace through, but the gromets never gripped the soft yielding fabric, and started pulling out from the start. After I had to remove them, the laces stayed in the holes just fine on their own.

Both Historically and cinematically, Robin Hood’s weapon of choice was the long bow, so that was an important bit. Since a long bow is almost as tall as it’s user, I pruned an appropriately long and skinny branch from the hedge, and used green twine for the bow-string. I wound a scrap of black leather around the centre of the bow to make a grip. I also sewed him a leather scrap wrist guard, such as are still used by traditional archers today, to protect the shooting arm from bow-string chafing.

I made a quiver out of green fabric, and by slitting the wide ends of some skinny bamboo garden stakes, I was able to push in large green craft feathers to fletch the arrows. The pointier tip ends were pushed into corks for safety. (Before letting him loose on the world I asked him to shoot arrows a leaf bag target, and after seeing how gently they flew, I asked him to shoot some at me for photographs. Even the ones that hit didn’t really hurt.

(Still, when he wore the costume to school for the fourth grade Hallowe’en party, he knew he would lose the weapon if he so much as pulled an arrow out of the quiver.) Sometimes a cork would break on impact, but then the arrow had to be retired until it could be re-tipped.)

He wore this (without the fleece under layer) later to attend the Robin In The Hood Festival.

King Richard kneels to the left of young Robin Hood, gripping the sword

2002: Captain Jean Luc Picard, U.S.S. Enterprise,
Star Trek Next Generation

By this point I had pretty much established that my son could be anyone he wanted to be for Hallowe’en so long as I there was enough advance notice given. For this one, his dad sent away for a Star Trek Next Generation badge/communicator which provided a lovely touch of authenticity to what was essentially a simple costume..

For the tunic and pants I again used my favourite costume fabric, arctic fleece, which has a bit of stretch capability but is quite forgiving for those of us who really only take on one of these projects once a year. Unlike most of the other costumes I’ve made, this one had to be pretty form-fitting, so it wasn’t revisited in later years.

It seems my son is as much a purist as I, as he insisted on having his head shaved for this one. The hairdresser was uncomfortable going all the way, so after a buzz cut the final close shave was undertaken by Dad. Even then, my son’s dark roots were clearly visible under the translucent skin of his perfectly smooth scalp, so a layer of flesh tone make up was required.

Standing in front of a poster of the starship Enterprise

forward arrow

Forward to Part Three

Costume Parade [Part One]

One of my main reasons for starting this blog was to have a place I could share the cool costumes I’ve made for my son over the years.

Sewing isn’t really my thing, so buying articles of clothing have often saved me time and energy in costume making. With the variety in pre-owned clothing stores, from Goodwill to Value Village, if the right clothes aren’t part of your child’s wardrobe, quite often they can be purchased quite economically.

Full shot of my one year old wearing his first Hallowe'en costume

1993: Mickey Mouse

When Aunt Cindy came back from her Disneyland vacation, she brought my son Mickey Mouse ears with his name embroidered on them. This became the first piece of my son’s first Hallowe’en costume.

For Mickey black tights and a long sleeved black cotton turtleneck were essential base pieces.

We wanted the classic original Mickey look, so my son’s red shorts were just the thing. I just needed to sew two large white buttons on the front, and another two on the back, where I also attached a piece of (untwisted) black raffia for the mouse tail.

Mickey wears 1930’s era white gloves, so I altered a pair of the little stretch gloves that can expand to fit adult fingers. Since Mickey (like many cartoon characters) has only three fingers, I removed one finger from each glove, so two fingers have to share a finger in the glove. Then I used a black marker to draw three black lines on the back of the hand part of the glove.

Opa and Oma helped out with the classic Mickey Mouse shoes. Using stuffing and yellow felt, they made over a pair of toddler slippers into the bulgy yellow shoes Mickey Mouse wears.

my son in Thunderbird costume, and detail insert showing the International Rescue logo on the sash, and the pilot hat

1994: Scott Tracy, Thunderbird One Pilot
Both my husband and I grew up watching the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson supermarionation “Thunderbirds” television series. As a science fiction fan, I had been looking for a chance to see it again for years, but it was only reissued here when our child was small, so he grew up watching it too.

Blue turtleneck and sweatpants formed the costume’s base. I used a vinyl fabric with a fuzzy white backing to make the sash, and glued on velcro for the closure. The sash also had a belt loop to hold tools (a yellow flashlight went there) and a plastic friction-spark gun was just perfect to serve as Scott’s ray gun that fills the holster on the other side of the sash. The glue did not hold up very well, and has been repaired with clear packing tape at this point. More of the vinyl became boot covers, which can be pulled on over ordinary shoes.

I used acrylic paint to recreate the International Rescue logo on the sash. The oval IR logo on the hat was made by painting the black outline over metallic silver paper, then glued onto the pilot hat. The hat was fairly simple to make for a novice. The hardest part was incorporating more blue vinyl as piping. To help the hat stay on, I attached a bit of elastic that ran unobtrusively behind his head under his hair.

He was very proud to trick-or-treat as Scott Tracy, but was annoyed at how many people had no idea who he was supposed to be.

Being held in the air by Kookoo the Klown at Pizza Hut

1995: Mickey II

Two years later, when he had a better grasp of Hallowe’en, since we had moved (and had a new audience) my son chose to reprise the role in the new neighborhood. The slippers no longer fit, and he chose instead to wear ordinary running shoes. After trick-or-treating, we went to the Brampton Pizza Hut Hallowe’en Party, where he’s pictured above with KooKoo the Klown.

Spiderman (Bakshi animated version)

1996: Spiderman

The costume is based on “the real Spiderman” which to me is the Spiderman from Ralph Bakshi’s animated 1970’s television series. Conveniently, my son agreed. The costume was created from a red sweater that Nanny would have sent to Goodwill had we not snagged it. Blue sweatpants formed the base, and I cut up the sweater into bits I then sewed into the head, sweater, boot covers and gloves. I used a bottle of black silk screen paint to make the web detail work.

Preparing to fly in a red satin mask, a dark blue sweater (with a red letter across the chest) and a red satin cape

1997: Superkid

At this age my son often spent time drawing pictures and making up stories about his own super namesake, so that was who he decided to be for next Hallowe’en. This was kind of fun because I had a lot more freedom of design.

forward arrow

Forward to Part Two

Robin in the Hood: Thunderstorm Aftermath

For ten years the Robin In The Hood medieval festival was blessed with great weather.

Robin the Hood 2010 - royalty

One year there was a tiny spritz of rain in the morning that cleared up later.

A princess and an outlaw cross the tournament field.

A couple of years had unseasonable heat.

four fighters in the tournament ring

But the company made jokes about festival organizer D.J. Carroll’s magical ability to garner good weather for Robin In The Hood, always held on the first Saturday in June.

Robin in the Hood 2010 - outlaws cheer

Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate this year. A series of thunderstorms scrolled across Ontario, buffeting Elmira’s Gibson Park with high winds and a series of torrential downpours.

branches down

Branches came down throughout the park,

the blacksmith is surrounded by puddles of water

and the volume of rain was so great that it left standing pools throughout the venue.

Robin stands at the edge of a puddle which reflects his image

Safety considerations due to the instability of the forest floor and canopy dictated the festival’s first cancellation in 2011, in what would have been the 11th year of operation.

Trebuchet sits in the sodden field, 2011

Robin in the Hood 2010 - Castle take down

Crispin stands by the door of the new castle

The new castle

Taking down the castle

members of the company hold up the castle walls

people carrying away a side wall while the rest of the castle is dismantled in the background

The wet forest with downed branches

Next year is bound to have better weather.


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